Thursday, May 19, 2011

Too Many Books, Too Little Time

I have a ton of books on my night table, I don't know how it happened. They aren't necessarily literary masterpieces, but they are all on topics that capture my interest. My night table was empty for a long time. If I go to a reading and like the topic I will buy the book to be supportive of the writer. Caitlin Kelly, beat me to a book about North Face, her book is called Malled and although very eerily we had some of the very same sentiments and even experiences, her time was spent in a mall, where I don't think I could have lasted very long. Michigan Avenue is its own unique experience, it is a world shopping district which is the cool thing about it, but Caitlin Kelly is also an amazing writer and she wrote a great, well researched book which I could not have done.

So the books on my table that are started not finished are, in no order of importance:

1) "World Without Fish" by Mark Kurlansky. I bought this at a signing that he did at the Nature Museum a few weeks ago, Dirk's Fish was there, along with the great ladies from the Shedd Aquarium. Although the book is written for kid's 9 years and up, it actually makes it easier to understand a very complicated subject and I have not finished the book yet but I hope that it ends on a happy note because it really is bringing home the subject of sustainable fishing. It is quirky and interesting..It makes me appreciate the time that I camped in Hokianga Harbor in the Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand and we foraged for mussels and cooked them on the beach or the time that I went to local cafe in Puntos Arenas and had a heaping bowl of steamed shellfish of crustaceans that we will never ever see in the U.S. I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone who cares even a tiny iota about the environment.

2)"Forget Me Not" by Jennifer Lowe-Anker and is about her life and life after the death of her husband Alex Lowe one of the top climbers of all time. I met her at the North Face store on Michigan Avenue and she told me about the book and I have started it. If you are interested in what being a climber(rock,wall, bouldering) then you should really read this book because she really gets into the characteristics and the details of having the rock wall, climbing bug and all the cool places in the world that there are to climb.

3)"The Tenth Muse", by Judith Jones. Judith Jones was Julia Child's editor and the book is full of great detail of how her life shaped her interest in food and how she developed her point of view. This is one that I read, put down and go back to, since at some point I would love to publish some essays on food.

4) "Apartment Gardening" by Amy Pennington. This book caught my eye from Gwyneth Paltrow's email letter Goop. It is a great book as a resource with little rules of thumb, no garden pun intended, and with some really great, simple, seasonal recipes.

5)"Cinderella of Wall Street" by Lydia Fisher. I met Lydia at a get together she held at her apartment through the 85Broads group of Chicago. Lydia is one of the most gracious people I have met and eerily again we were in New York in the bond business some years apart but I completely know the world that she worked in. What is amazing to me because I worked in it, is that to succeed in that business took a lot of presence, energy and really steely determination because it is a really rough business. I have to finish her book because I think she just had complete confidence in herself which is what I really admire and she had a specific goal and knew where she wanted to go.

6)"Relentless Forward Progress" by Bryon Powell. Finally and I almost forgot this one and no, I have not run an ultra yet, but perhaps the title of this book is my new mantra, "relentless forward progress"...

I will admit, apartment gardening is more a resource I flip open, relentless just sits in front of me reminding me to do one thing, run......


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Time Flies, Training TIme and Tolerance

I think what the world needs now is a little more love and tolerance and a little less fighting and anger. I commited to the Common Threads marathon training team this year and training starts now. The CT mission is a really positive one that I can rally behind, it is about peace and learning tolerance about others through food. What the world needs now is more tolerance of one another, less anger and sitting down and sharing meals with one another.

I for one have had negative and positive relationships with food, and I think some of the over eating support groups out there deal with eating in a negative way, "don't eat that", "I was good", "I was bad". It is not about being good or being bad, it is learning healthful enjoyment about food and the enjoyment of cooking something that tastes good that people enjoy.

If you have read my Linkedin summary, I am all about spreading and sowing positive seeds of change. What better way to sow positive seeds then through children. So this is why I love the Common Threads mission so much. I also think there isn't enough laughter and plain fun in life. In a lot of jobs it is a sign of weakness to show that you are having fun, or to share a joke with a colleague. There is a lot of fun as well as hard work in cooking and learning the techniques of cooking. But it is all about learning positive fun things not negative fun things.

So as Dr. Wayne Dyer said in his affirmation today, unbending intent. So my intent is to raise $600 plus dollars for Common Threads, to train effectively so I have a lot of fun running the marathon and maybe have some left before or after the marathon to complete a 50K race this year. As people who know me, I firmly believe that eating healthful, thoughtfully grown or raised vegetables or animals affects how we think. So the more positive seeds that are sown in the world, of awareness of how to cook, of what types of foods to look for, to request, to grow, to eat,the better.

All this said, it isn't going to be easy, I inherited my grand mother's good skin but also her pudginess so I break the laws of physics everytime I run. I do think I was meant to be a sherpa because I can certainly keep going. But I am going to practice unbending intent on raising money for CT, on training, and experiencing the joyfulness that comes from training(okay....I will admit there are also times where you have to dig deep but that is where the intent comes in).....

I think the the CT website for raising money will be up at the end of April so look for it!!!! If you do anything, get outside for one, and cook something for yourself or others for two. These are little things but it is the little things that ultimately will create change!!!!!!!!!!



Friday, February 11, 2011

To Travel Again and Some GREAT IDEAS

I really want to get on the travel and trek bus again but I have to work on the economics of it!!!! But I have had some great ideas this week. Fortunately, when you look at the source of some of the foods and beverages that we import because they just are not going to be grown in Chicago are grown in some amazing places. So my ideas for trekking and tasting trips are:
1)Ethiopia - To trek in the Simien mountains, to check out Lalibela and the churches that are built into the ground and then to go to the farm where Ipsento, Coffee Ambassadors source their beans. I think it would be really interesting to meet the farmers, see how they live and see how coffee is picked and harvested.

2)Darjeeling - Darjeeling is to tea, the way Rheims is to Champagne. Kachengjunga is the third highest peak in the world, so it would be great to do a trek to Kachengjunga's basecamp, then to go to Darjeeling and visit the specific farms where Ineeku tea is grown. Little did I realize tea is grown from a specific type of tree, the camellia sinensis.

3)Ecuador - Now I have been to Ecuador, I climbed a volcano Cotacachi that was just a day climb and then flew from Quito to the Galapagos which was an amazing thing to do. But a great trip would be to go the rain forest in Ecuador and visit the Kallari Farming cooperative and see how cacao beans are harvested.

Oh, so many cool places to visit in the world, such little time and so many dollars needed..... Enough procrastinating from doing stairs in my building.....


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow, Slow Food, and Coffee Beans

I just finished a workout and I am filled with gratefulness for the Chicago Parks District availability of places to workout, for $5 I got a great cardio workout in with a good view of the Lake and I had a great jog there in the snow.

In the midst of 45 minutes on the stairmaster I realized that with some of my experiences lately, my growing the tomato plant in my apartment completely indoors, going to the cupping session at Ipsento coffee and my devouring slowly and over 2 meals of the MeatyBalls sandwiches, that I need to start saying a gratefulness prayer before I eat. When I went to a weekend out in Utah with Steve Ilg, when we ate dinner he talked about being grateful for each mouthful and chewing many times to savour that mouthful. After learning last night how coffee is grown from fruit to drying or washing the seed, to roasting the coffee, the time and care and processess in producing quality food items is HUGE, it is g-I-normous and I eat so quickly relative to the G-I-NORMOUS process it took to produce that food and that is what Steve Ilg spoke about at dinner many years ago and it is all coming back. A friend many years ago over cheese and wine, made a dismissive, shaming remark to me, "Oh, Jeannie, it is just food" and she said it in a way implying that I care way too much about food. But you know, that is the reason our food system is so screwed up, people don't think about what they are eating, they take the attitude, it is nourishment whatever it is, IT IS JUST FOOD...well you isn't....Buying things at the Green City Market, take Nordic Creamery's butter, it is just not butter, it is a family business, it tastes different depending on the season, it does not taste like supermarket butter, it is just not "ordinary" butter and you can read about that in the latest issue of Edible Chicago magazine by the way.
So, I am going to continue to workout at the little gym that I never knew about all these years by the lakefront, and say a little thank you before I eat things and eat more slowly and think about what I am eating the way I thought about the coffee that I was sipping and slurping last night at Ipsento and the coffee roasted by Coffee Ambassadors.

Finally I am going to appreciate the snow. Yes, I was a polar bear in another life, but snow is great to run on, it is soft on your bones and knees, it makes the lakefront more interesting and it is really beautiful if you at it closely. Off to one of my day jobs...but get outside, drink some good coffee and enjoy the snow!!!!!!!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Had to Post This, Made Me Laugh

I got Dirks Friday Fish flash and he just completely captured the thought of any Bear's fan with these thoughts and pictures below.....

Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop

I'm sending this weekly email to give you a heads up on what is available and especially good for your weekend grill and entertaining. Each week it will highlight a selection of the best fish available in Chicago. Some you may be familiar with and some you won't but they are all worth trying!


Bears logo

Bears eat salmon, it makes them strong, and strong Bears kick butt! Support our Bears by eating lots of salmon this weekend.

Bear eating salmon

Think of these salmon as Green Bay Packers!

Bear claws on salmon


It will be one of THE GAMES due to the teams and the weather........ But of course I had to relate it to food!!!!!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

I walked one of my favorite local dogs, Raffa at 6am this morning for my friend John, then being the slacker that I am went right back to sleep. I am off to bike to the New Year's 5K in Lincoln Park, jog/attempt to run that and then stop by my friends Dave and Rebecca for their New Year's brunch then home and off to the store to work for the rest of the day. It is so easy to be a slacker....and that is okay, I wear the slacker name well, because beneath every slacker there is an anti-slacker who I let emerge every now and then...And that is one of life's questions to slack or not to slack.....but so my slacks will fit I have to get back to seriously exercising and at least today is a step in that direction.....

Can't believe it is 2011............................Happy New Year to everyone and I learned from old dog, Sophie, old dogs can learn new tricks and this year I am going to be up to some old and new tricks....I think it is going to be a great year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicago Foodie Holiday Gifts 31 ideas for December

Okay this list will continue to grow but here is my idea list in no particular order for farm to table, farm to bar, artisanal foodie gifts for the holidays!!!

1. Burton's Maple Syrup - Really good maple syrup is hard to find and not something that most people will really search out to buy for themselves so what a great gift, locally made, really tasty maple syrup. Personally, I prefer Grade B because it is a little higher in nutrients and when I try to do the master cleanse, maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne and water to flush out all the holiday excesses, it tastes better.

2. Spices from the Spice House - Spices perk up a meal without adding calories. I think people don't realize the difference between fresh spices and the supermarket variety or the difference herbs mixed with salt make. Spices are great hostess gifts, stocking stuffers and I firmly believe you can never have enough spice in life!!!!!!!

3. Pastoral Artisan - Gift basket, cheese, wine, gift certificate to wine/cheese classes. How can you go wrong shopping here. Do happy people eat cheese or does cheese make people happy? Greg and Ken the owner's of Pastoral are the Chicago source for all local cheeses within the region, they know the makers, they have visited everyone, and Pastoral offers so much more, like really yummy sandwiches. You cannot go wrong giving clients, friends, family a gift basket from Pastoral. They put the A in showcasing artisanal products.

4. Hum Spirits- What if you were told, there is a spirit out there that you will likely be hangover free and is good for your health and tasty at the same time, hello, welcome to Hum Spirits..Hum is high in antioxidants, cardamom, ginger, lime and hibiscus. It is the new world of botanical spirits...I love this world and it is definitely something your friends, family may not know about, so something new and it will be a hit to whomever you gift it to.

5. Rare Bird Preserves - ELizabeth Madden the chief cook and bottle washer of Rare Bird Preserves puts so much attention and focuses on all the littliest details to make these preserves so incredibly tasty. If you ever heard her describe the process of making these preserves including making her own pectin, you would not believe she prices these delectable spreads where she does. Yet again, you can never have enough preserves to put on breads, meats and cheeses. Another great gift, stocking stuffer or house present.

6. Nicole's Crackers - Who can miss the purple and white boxes of Nicole's crackers, they are made locally in Chicago and being the carb lover that I am, the boxes disappear very quickly. Nicole gives each cracker a witty name and description, and she is always coming up with ideas for new products. Who does not want an extra box of crackers? Yet again another great gift that you can't go wrong with. And Nicole, herself is such an interesting person who constantly recreates herself and that personality is in her crackers.

7. City Provisions, CP Deli - So much to say, so little time... CP Deli is ground zero for almost any locavore product in the Illinois universe and the merchandising is beautiful and we haven't even gotten to the food. Every product listed here plus more can be found there, plus my favorite salad dressing in the universe to date, Aquaranch Basil vinaigrette dressing, and so much more. This is just a have to go, locavore destination in Chicago, even if you aren't you have to go....that's all I can say and if you want to give the foodie in your life something you both can do together, buy a gift certificate to one of Cleetus Friedman's Farm dinners, I still have not gone for full disclosure but it is on my bucket list of locavore/foodie things I have to do.

8. Marion Street Cheese Market -When in Oak Park go to Marion Street, when not in Oak Park, make Marion Street a stop and their dining room keeps getting better and better, Marion Street talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to artisanal cheese and commitment to all things sustainable and local plus they have a might fine menu to guide you to wine/beer and food pairings, gifts, gift certificates, another place you just cannot go wrong.....

9. North Shore Distillery- Oh, I love local spirits, nothing like having a still at your home, the more you read about their story and hear about their spirits and the energy, love, and care that goes into their products, absinthe anyone? You cannot go wrong giving this as a gift and making it a must have spirit when you go out.......

10. Koval Spirits - Another husband /wife team another distillery, (who knew?) in Chicago and KOSHER as well. Ginger liqueur includes hand grating ginger.....Speaking of care, taste, quality of ingredients and did I say KOSHER????????????

11. Flight Chicago - Okay for the ultimate foodie gift, and for the insider Chicago foodie welcome to Flight Deck Chicago. The gals behind this great company bring their joy and enthusiasm to the ultimate insider foodie gift, have a tour, meet with the chef, have a private tasting of top locavore/foodie Chicago restaurants and get behind the scenes........ Okay I am a populist but also an elitist and this is for the ultimate Chicago foodie experience.......

12. The Olive Tap - I am obsessive about condiments and this is THE place to go for the absolute low down on oils, vinegars and much more. Long Grove is a a little foodie oasis and if you can't get to Italy to buy from the source then this is the place to be. I can't always justify stocking up on the olive oils I really want but I absolutely would love them as gifts, one short cut to great food is great ingredients and this is an absolute destination location to buy them, that is if you aren't going to Italy or France in the next month.....

13. Salted Caramel - Oh the mix of sweet and savory, a great snack food that everyone will love, popcorn and bacon among other combos.....another local Chicago product that will never be turned down if you give it to someone........

14. Katherine Ann's Confections - Katherine Ann sells her chocolates at a lot of the local Chicago farmer's markets, hand dipped chocolates, need I say anything more??

15. Slow Food Chicago Membership - Give a gift of a membership to Slow Food Chicago to get on the mailing list for a slew of reasonably priced events at local restaurants, involvement in the local food community, learn about child health and nutrition and just get a huge glimpse at what is going on the food activist community in Chicago and in the world at the same time eat well and drink well, where can yo go wrong??

16. Green City Market Membership - Get on the GCM's mailing list and get an entree to many of the farms that chefs in the Chicago locavore community source from. Expand your vegetable, meat, cheese and dairy knowledge and get access to so much great local product and learn from the many chefs that support the market as well...a locavore must.....

17. The Season's on Henry's Farm - Is your locavore/foodie an avid reader, wanting a local Chicago foodie read, or is your loved one just wanting a great read period, well, The Season's on Henry's Farm is a story about love of family and a great guide to the cycles of vegetables and livestock and what to cook when if you live in Illinois and learn a lot about growing, cooking the local produce of Illinois.

18. Chicagourmet Membership - Give a gift of a membership to ChicagoGourmets, a group organized around the great chefs of Chicago, get a years worth of dining events each with a slighlty different angle and theme and experience the restaurants in a very unique unable to duplicate way. Find out about new places and meet new people, what is not to like about new place, food and friends?

19. River Valley Ranch Mushrooms, Tomato Soup, Portabello Chili- RVK's are not only the mushroom people, they are the mushroom product people. For a person like me who likes the whole area of umami tastes, RVKs is the place to go. Yes, it would be great to make your own portabella chile but their's is fresh and already made. I just loved quality, jarred, local products and RVK keeps coming out with more. Most of their products are only available online, farmer's markets or selected stores(most of which are listed here).

20. Tomato Mountain Salsa - Another company whose products are made locally and jarred. I love the TM chipotle salsa with scrambled eggs. There are very few calories in salsas so it is a win/win food product that you cannot go wrong giving anytime of the year. Another product that spices up your life, woo hoo!!!

22. Nice Cream - Hand made, small batch ice cream sourcing local, seasonal ingredients, yum....

23. Prairie Fruit Farm - I call Wes and Lesley the happy goat cheese people, they love their goats and they make cow cheese as well, honey and host farm dinners. Their cheese is very yummy that is all I can is a must buy cheese!!!!!!!!!!! They both are so committed to quality products and sustainable is overwhelming...

24. Nordic Creamery Grumpy Goat Cheese - Personally I love the butter he sells at the Green City Market, it acts like clarified butter and for a lazy cook like me, that is a beautiful thing when it comes to sauteing things up quickly. I have gravitated to their grumpy goat cheese which tastes like a cheddar cheese, their cheeses are mostly available at the GCM and other farmer's markets.....

25. Dirk's Fish, Whitefish salad, Crab salad, a gift certificate to one of their cooking classes and in my mind there is only really one place to buy fish in Chi-town and that is Dirk's. You have to get on his monthly email list you will laugh and learn at the same time and really learn a lot about fish. I have still not gotten over my phobia about cooking fish in an apartment without great ventilation but Dirk is moving me in the right direction. And I know longer have champagne tastes, I have King crab tastes, I really never liked crab until I tasted King Crab, it didn't taste like crab, or is there really no crab like King crab???

26. Crop to Cup Coffee - One more obsession I have coffee and like with most things I truly believe, you get what you pay for. We have a lot of great local coffee companies in Chi-town but I have drunk the C2C coffee and it is incredibly tasty...I have still to learn more about where it is sourced, how it is roasted but for the coffee afficionado in your life, C2C is a must and speaking about sustainable and committed the more I read and learn about C2C the more I am astounded.....

27. Templeton Rye - Okay this is another product that I gush over. Yes it is made in Iowa but when you read their newsletter, read about what a family business it is, read how it is made you will gush as well...Yes.. one more reason to drink spirits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yet another product you cannot go wrong giving...

28. Seedling Fruit- One of their fruit mustados, their tart cherry cider, or any of their other fruit and fruit/savory spreads. Yes, yet another company that makes all these small batch condiments, most of which you can only find at the GCM and other farmer's markets. I am a lazy chef and if you add a sweet savory quality condiment to a simple roasted or baked meat it turns a so so meal into a fantastic meal....this is a great gift gift for someone who loves food but does not have a whole lot of time to cook.

29. Snookelfritz Ice Cream - Yet another ice cream that defines artisanal. The flavors that come through in all her seasonal ice cream flavors just cannot be repeated except by Nancy Silver the artist behind the ice cream. She can be found at the Green City Market and it is just "to die for" flavors.

30. Flora's Confections Flora's Pate de fruits and other confections are yet another incredibly delicate, seasonal, not to be repeated product that you cannot go wrong giving for any occasion. Flora is yet another mulit-talented artisan who is also the producer of the film, Kings of Pastry.

31. Kinnikinnick Farms Arugula or Basil Pesto - Yet another multifaceted farm, I love their arugula pesto which I can buy at the GCM, I love all things green and it works with pasta, on meat, as a tasty snack....they also sponsor farm stays but yet again, I am a lazy cook and a jar of their arugula pesto makes for a quick, yet healthy tasty pasta dish....

31a. Heritage Prairie Honey or a Gift Certificate to one of their farm dinners - Heritage Prairie is one of the "go to" places for farm dinners in the Chicagoland area. They are experts at in and their different honeys, including lavender is a hard to find, very tasty little gift to anyone.

31b. Mead from Wild Blossom Meadery - Who knew that mead is alive and well in Chicago thanks to Greg Fischer from beverage art. He sources his honey from hives all over Chicago and on tops of some of the hotels in the downtown area.
31c. Cooking classes at the French Pastry School or at Kendall College - Giving cooking classes as a gift is a win/win situation for the giver, you get to be the tester. Both of these Chicago instituations are incredibley active in giving back to the community and supporting the local Chicago food community and you will learn a ton at the same time!!!!!!!!!

31d. A subscription to Edible Chicago magazine - Okay, this really should have been number one on my list, but a subscription to ECHIC gives you a window to all things local in Chicago, exposure to incredible writers, inspiration, ideas and inclusion into the growing nationwide Edible Communities.....

31e. Capriole Cheese - Yet another and incredible local farmstead cheese....Available at the GCM and the cheese shops listed above, yummy, yummy, yummy..all I can say is so much cheese, such little time!!!

31f. Learn Great Foods - Buy a gift certificate for one of these farm dinners that are throughout the midwest and there are great little food books on the website as well that focus on specific vegetables and give help with how to prepare them and include recipes from some of the farmers....

This list will be continued........I hope to be at least up to todays date the 8th by the end of today....I will add additional info to these entries as the month progresses. And I am sure I forgot places that I love but this is a start and idea list for anyone looking for really quality gifts for the locavore, foodie or just lover of food and beverages in your life.............

Ciao and happy holidays.....